Who are ELL students?

When I say ELL who do you think of?  Is your first thought to those students who have arrived to your classroom from another country.  Students who were born in another country, and speak a language other than English.  It is true these students are ELLs but so is the student in your classroom who was born down the street from the school to an immigrant family.  The student who learned another language before starting school and learning English.  These students are also ELL students. They are also know as LTELs (long term English learners).

Research by Dr. Jim Cummins tells us that it takes up to 7 years to learn a new language.  7 Years for an ELL student to catch up to their English only peers.  These born here students are falling through the cracks. Many of these students have good oral communication skills.  Where the gaps are pronounced are in the areas of academic language as well as reading and writing.

“Schools are not providing the instruction these students (LTELs) need. Programs have
not developed the first languages of the long-term learners. They speak English
quite well but do not have the underlying base in their first languages to
transfer the knowledge they need for academic success. The general public, and
in fact, most educators believe that more English equals more English, when the
truth is the opposite. More first-language knowledge equals more English.”

 Freeman and Freeman, 2009.

How do we as teachers help them?

  1. Recognize that these students have language needs.
  2. Always support the use of students first language at home.  Do not suggest that students speak English at home.  Parents should speak to their children in the language or languages that the parents are strongest in.
  3. Carefully look at assessment data are lower scores related to language needs.
  4. Understand that in the fist 7 years small gaps in reading and writing are normal
  5. Pre-teach vocabulary in your lessons
  6. Scaffold support for students in reading and writing tasks. Using graphic organizers are a great way to do this.
  7. Conference with these students regularly providing extra time and support for their language needs.
  8. Allow them more time to answer’
  9. Build background knowledge for students.

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